Have you ever heard of HiFit, Step Tracker, and Drink Water? These products are brought to you by none other than CooTek, the Chinese developer company which saw the light back in 2008. However, if you have an Android and are so fond of their products, I suggest you start looking for alternatives as Google is banning CooTek from the Play Store for violating its advertising policies. Let’s talk about a bit more about CooTek and why their popular apps have been removed for Google Play Store.
What is CooTek?
The company is well-known for its innovative mobile applications and AI technology. You would find products with over 400 million downloads, that’s how popular the developer is. You’ll definitely know the company through their popular TouchPak Keyboard. It is an application that uses unparalleled technology to provide the best input experience to both Android and iPhone users. CooTek has also developed many content-rich apps, covering verticals including fitness, lifestyle, healthcare, news, short videos, and entertainment.
Well, if you’re an Android user already but you don’t know what the company has to offer, it’s too late to introduce you. That’s because the Chinese developer has been banned from Google’s Play Store library. It removed all of its application from the store’s library due to a huge violation. Let’s take a closer look at the matter.
Why Did Google Ban CooTek?
The developer was using invasive adware called BeiTaAd. This malicious plugin bombards users with disruptive ads even if their phone is on standby (Locked). Users have reported that intrusive apps constantly pop up and interrupt “many” core phone functions. I’m talking about phone calls, music, and emails. If you’re not familiar with BeiTaAd, let me explain it. BeiTaAd is a well-obfuscated advertising plugin hidden within a number of popular applications in Google Play. The adware doesn’t initiate the ad bombarding process immediately. It at least waits around 24-hours after users launch the app to crank out ads. Pretty smart if you ask me. It then displays out-of-app ads that interfere with a user’s interaction with other applications on their device.
According to a security engineer at Lookout:
“While out-of-app ads are not particularly novel, those served by this plugin render the phones nearly unusable.”
Despite the company claiming that it already removed the adware, reports said that many of the same apps (58 to be exact) from the same developer still spam aggressive ads towards users. As a result, Google is now treating this as a case of repeated violations and is taking serious action. All in all, the CooTek is now prohibited from using Google’s ad platforms altogether.
This is what a Google’s spokesperson had to say:
I guess this was the last straw with Google.
What Did CooTek Have to Say?
CooTek created all the infected apps. That only means one thing. We can speculate that the adware is of Chinese origin. However, the Chinese developer denied the accusations. CooTek’s spokesperson Mina Luc said:
“This week, Lookout [alleged] that 58 of the updated apps continued the same malicious ad activity. They claimed that ‘the BeiTaAd plug-in was gone, but the ads remained.’ However, this is NOT true. The fact is, our engineer re-used some of the code frameworks in the previous SDK in question. It didn’t re-activate any malicious ad activity. The findings lack evidence and the logic is not convincing. There was not any re-engagement on the ad activity pointed out by Lookout on any of the versions which we updated.”
This is not Google’s first banning game. It did that before to several companies for different reasons. However, we didn’t expect it to be this soon. This is the second time this year that a major Chinese app developer faces the consequences of deceitful practices. The company’s name is Do Global and Google banned it due to ad-fraud back in April 2019. Google removed more than 100 apps for the developer. That’s not all, last year two other Chinese companies, Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech, suffered the same fate with Google. It was reported that their ads are part of a scheme to rip off app developers. That’s when Google stepped in and kicked the companies to the curb.
CooTek Apps Barred from Google Play Store
Here’s a list of apps you won’t find anymore in Google Play Store due to CooTek violating Google’s policies:
- Abs Workout
- Step Tracker
- Horoscope Secret
- Drink Water Reminder
- Blue Light Filter
- TouchPal Keyboard
- TouchPal PhoneBook
The search giant subsequently yanked the affected apps off the Play Store. However, since a lot of users have downloaded CooTek’s apps, we can assume that the damage has already been done. Don’t worry. You might be able to get rid of the problem easily. All you have to do is delete/uninstall the applications related to this developer and the problem should cease to exist.